About Me & Contact

Greetings!  I update this page in November 2019, a time when this "about me" page is seriously overdue for an update as the blog nears the 10-year mark of its shift from lighthearted Indian film reviews to a dedicated focus on classical and traditional dances from India as seen in Indian cinema, documentaries, and archival footage (and sometimes near and beyond India!).

My first name is Cassidy, writing under the blog pen name "Cassidy Minai," and I am an American of European heritage based in Salt Lake City, Utah, who is passionate about classical and traditional dances from India and South Asia, and their glittering moments and practitioners as recorded by the camera are the subjects of my video-focused blog.  While I often focus on the traditions of South India in South Indian-oriented cinema and footage, I cover styles and traditions from all over India (and sometimes nearby countries) and in many languages.  I am also interested in how Indian dances have been portrayed in world cinema, particularly productions in Europe and the Americas.

Unearthing rare clips, archival footage, and researching historical connections and perspectives is a pleasure for my nerdy personality that has no trouble spending hours searching archives and meticulously digging for information.  Over the past 25 years or so, a number of scholars and enthusiasts have written about the evolution of dance in South Asia over the past two centuries and beyond, often with critical and balanced perspectives that seek to recover lost histories and marginalized communities.  Scholarship and writings that explore Indian dance forms in cinema, however, are few and far between, but I hope to give some more attention to and highlight some excellent writings on the subject.  I do not formally write in academia but am an “independent researcher” that has access to academia and endeavors to cite my sources where practical in the blog format.

My interest in Indian dance and cinema all started with discovering the world of Indian films and music in college (thanks to international student friends), and then the world of classical and traditional Indian dances which captured my heart unlike any dance has before.  The dance traditions that developed in that region of the globe are my favorite world-wide in their specific visual movement vocabulary, aesthetics, and complexity that one can spend a lifetime studying.  For reasons I still don’t quite understand, I became specifically enamored with Indian and South Asian dance as seen in cinema.  I wrote a bit about this in my "How South Indian Films Stole My Heart" post.  Early on, I happened on to the article “Celebration of classical Indian dance in the great Indian cinema” posted at Narthaki.com which supplied me with an excellent list of dancer-actors and film directors to seek out, and I soon became absolutely obsessed with finding out more about the dance styles, dancers, and films.  I quickly discovered the world of classic Indian cinema back to the 1930s and its rare gems.  Early on I had such a difficult time finding the type of information I was seeking, especially in English.  I didn’t understand why more people weren’t writing and talking about these topics, and why it was so hard to find information on the films and how the dances came to be.  My blog ended up being the type of resource I wish I had found when I first became passionate about Indian dance and cinema.

Slowly, I was able to increase my knowledge and understanding and find others who were interested in these areas, and I discovered the breadth of writings and scholarship on the more broadly-situated topics of the history of South Asia and the social and political complexities of how dance evolved in the region.  I soon realized that cinema was also an important part of the dance revival decades of pre and post-independence India, but it has so often been stigmatized and overlooked, much like the traditional performing arts communities.  It became clear to me how important the videos and archival finds I was finding and posting were, and I was on a mission to find as many as possible and source as much supplementary information as I could.  I love the chase for information and video finds almost as much as the final result!

When reading the works of others, I got so tired of reading lengthy descriptions of dance, but not being able to visualize what was being described.  These are areas of inquiry that need the multimedia abilities of internet presentation to fully flower, and that is why I blog.  I want to garner these amazing visuals and accompanying scholarship and insights greater visibility through the egalitarian space of the internet. I know I’m not alone in wanting to view the dance I’m reading about, while I’m reading about it!  I work in higher education and love me some academia, but I do get frustrated by how sequestered and limited its reach can be, often locked behind journal access restrictions and paywalls.

I have been heartened to see how the information and videos featured on my blog have reached so many people worldwide, including dance scholars and enthusiasts but most notably relatives of these dancers so important to the historical record who in some cases had never seen certain video footage.  I have also been humbled to consider my position of privilege and the dynamics of my writing on these subjects given my cultural background.

While many of my posts are serious, I also like to be silly and have fun and enjoy watching all types of film dance.  I go with my gut in how dance makes me feel, and share my honest thoughts and disappointments as much as my delights.

Cinema Nritya Gharana was the original name of the blog, combining the words cinema + nritya (interpretive aspect of traditional Indian dance) + gharana (traditional school or style of Indian dance or music) to denote this as a place for me to share my "school of thought" regarding Indian cinema and traditional dance.  I later shortened it to “Cinema Nritya” as a succinct way to describe the blog.  My blog pen-name and Google username are inspired by “Minai-ware” that I learned about in an Islamic Art class in college, and my profile pic is not me but the luminous Indian actress Shobana back in the 80s or 90s.

Contact:

I welcome any comments, chatter, or information sharing at kasuvandi *a t* gmail *d o t* com, or you can use the contact form on the right-hand column of the blog.

Fair use disclaimer:

I believe my blog is in compliance with Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act which allows for the limited use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the rights holders if the usage falls under the definition of "fair use" as determined by the four "fair use" factors.  Images, embedded videos, and quoted writings not in the public domain or with unknown status are used for the nonprofit and educational purpose of criticism, commentary, scholarship, and research of the subject matter.  Their use is often transformative and presented with commentary that adds expression and meaning to the visuals and usually presents background, analysis, and historical information that greatly enhances the public understanding of the work.  I use only as much of the work as is necessary to accomplish these goals.  I make an effort to identify sources and owners wherever possible.

Copying from my blog:

For the parts of my blog posts that are my own voice and writings, anyone is welcome to share excerpts or reference the information as long as I am given appropriate credit.  Many of my posts are based on a significant amount of effort, and please attribute and credit/link to allow those who want to know more about the information or see contextual sources on the blog to see the original source.  If you wish to republish entire posts, you must contact me for permission.

Creative Commons License
Cinema Nritya by Cassidy Minai is licensed under a 

29 comments:

  1. Holy Cow !! Are you Really a white chick ? the collection in your blog and the depth in commentary on telugu or south indian film industry is incomparable to most of my friends. Who ever you are. Hats off Chiquita !! I am a telugu guy, Shobhana's fan living in Norway as of now a student. I dont know how i found it. But i am so glad i did. Bless you. i have not seen any one having such wealth of info on dance that too on Indian classical dance form.

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  2. Hi anon - You know, I didn't realize Holy Cow was a phrase used outside the US until I heard the song Kolaveri Di! Glad you find the blog enjoyable and happy to meet another Shobana fan! Tis true, I am a white chick, guilty as charged. ;)

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  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujP4uOx_De4&feature=related
    The same anonymous.

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  4. I was wondering if the username Kvammayi in youtube is you.

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  5. ^Yes, that channel is mine. Many of the dances there were discussed here.

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  6. Hello

    We are very interested in your work. How can we get in touch?
    Regards
    Shastram
    www.shastram.org

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    1. Hi Anon - You can contact me via email at kasuvandi@gmail.com.

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  7. Hi,

    Somehow I landed to this site.. And I am flabbergasted. I am amazed to find a non Indian so passionate about Indian dance & Indian movies.

    I read most of the articles/reviews. I agree to many of your comments and disagree to few.

    Keep writing.

    I am a movie buff. I generally enjoy old movies for the music & performaces and the new one for the technical stuff.

    I would be regular visitor of your blogsite...

    One question, Now you have seen so many Indian movies, do you understand any Indian language?

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    1. Sina - Welcome! Thank you for the encouragement. The language question is a good one. Unfortunately, I do not have any knowledge of any language from India other than a few words here and there of a few languages and being able to tell them apart in general. Since I watch films from many different parts/languages of India, it's too hard to get a good grasp on any one of the languages, and even if I wanted to learn one I wouldn't know which one to pick! :) At this point I rely on English subtitles, inference, and Indian friends to translate. :)

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  8. Hi Minai :
    Excellent reviews and write ups - i am a classical dance artiste based in Singapore/ Mumbai - i just chanced upon your blog as i too am interested in dance in indian movies.Great work Siri Rama

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    1. Hello! I am always happy to hear from others interested in Indian film dance. Thank you for the compliments. :)

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  9. I honestly thank my luck today for being introduced to this fantastic wealth of information you have shared with us. Truly unbelievable work. God Bless you and please continue your awesome writing. I am a classical dancer and trained in Kerala Natanam style and I feel so honoured to have been trained in this style by Guru Gopalakrishnan who was a student of Late Guru Gopinath. All his choregraphy is so simple but beautiful and I just love that old traditional style .He has choreographed for a couple of films as well in the 60's.

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    1. Hello Anita--Thank you for the appreciative comment. It sounds like you found my blog through my posts about Guru Gopinath--I hope you've seen the rare videos of him at NetFilm! Such great footage. Come back soon! :)

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  10. Recently stumbled upon your blog, just wanted to say hi :)
    Interesting finding other white-westerners sharing the same love/fascination with Indian cinema.
    I got bitten by the bug a number of years ago when chancing upon a UK/Ch.4 broadcast of 'Madhumati' and was simply enchanted with the music/song & dance; I quickly became an avid devotee of Vyjayanthimala and her delightful performances.
    Recently been going through much of tommydan's excellent youtube archives, and now I find a wealth of material to explore here on your blog...I can see now I have some catching up to do ;)

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    1. Hello JimiJam74 (nice name! :)) Nice to "meet" you. I am not surprised that Vyjayanthimala captivated you! Padmini is probably not far behind if you're not familiar with her work already. :) Do have fun exploring, and let me know if there are any videos with broken links that you are interested in seeing. I do try to go through old posts to update videos, but I don't always catch them all. Hope to see you around again! :D

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    2. Yes, I discovered Vyjay's dance 'rival' Padmini relatively recently, I must explore her performances some more.
      I've been putting together this YouTube playlist this last month - 'Indian Song & Dance' by 'JimiJam74' - I threw a few of Padmini's dances in there that I found. You can see some of my highlights/favorites discovered on my travels into Indian cinema/music/dance so far - I imagine you'd already be familiar with a lot of the content in there.
      I intended/hoped it might serve as a sort of cross-section/introduction for anyone interested and maybe new to Indian dance/cinema - trouble is it gets longer and longer as I find new stuff to include!
      I started out focused on the dance, along with some of its classical origins, but most recently got diverted/lost in Lollywood/Pakistani cinema and became enchanted/transfixed/borderline-obsessed with the singing of Noor Jehan.
      It's just possible I may have added one too many of her songs to my playlist ;)

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    3. JimiJam74 - I'm sure you will enjoy my post yesterday on a new Vyjayanthimala film dance discovery! I linked to your upload of the dance in New Delhi because the quality is very nice. I checked out your Indian Song & Danceplaylist, and you have a ton of classics in there! I was happy to see you included the Manipuri dance in Sujata. I just discovered it recently and it will be included in a post I'm working on about Manipuri film dances. And you have Sujata Mohapatra's Odissi dances--she is simply divine. That channel also has other videos of other Indian classical dance forms filmed in a similar way, with English subtitles, that are great to watch for beginners. I especially love their Bharatanatyam (Anita Ratnam) and Manipuri (Bimbavati Devi) videos. When I read that you have detoured into Pakistani cinema and the songs of Noor Jehan, I knew I had to inform you about Richard who maintains the blog Dances on the Footpath. His interests have taken a similar path as yours, and he knows quite a bit about Pakistani singers and mujra dances. ~Minai

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    4. Hi again, just got back to your blog..
      I was actually looking at your Vyjayathimala 'Folk Dances' playlist - it was the one from the Tamil movie 'Penn' that caught my eye since it looked much like the one from the Hindi movie 'Ladki' I was familiar with (I now realise are versions of the same film) - look similar, but not the same! - Did they film it twice, or just cleverly edit different versions/songs?
      I came here to see if you had featured either films/dances and that, funnily enough, led me to the very post on Vyjayanthimala you mention...a nice find indeed! Some lovely sharp dancing, and nice to see her doing some more facial expressions you see in a longer classical performance. Gotta love the climatic vocals, but like you say the edit of the dance doesn't quite deliver a climax to match.
      Happy to have some of your approval on my playlist ;)
      Sujata Mohapatra - simply divine - I wholly agree!
      She puts me in a trance whenever I watch one of her Odissi performances - such fine movements, rhythm, and lovely facial expressions :D
      I'm just recently discovering these different classical forms that inspire the film dances myself, like Manipuri - I look forward to your post on this.
      I had briefly passed over Richard's blog on my travels - I must go back and look closer to see what he has on Pakistani cinema/dance/music - although I may have satisfied my curiosity on my detour for the time being; I think I feel the pull/fascination of perhaps exploring some more of the classically inspired dancing again...
      ~Jim.

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    5. Hi JimiJam74, The question of whether multi-language film dances were filmed separately or at the same time but re-edited has fascinated me quite a bit! I haven't analyzed the Penn/Ladki/Sangham dances yet, so it is hard to say. :) I'm happy to hear Sujata has enchanted you--she seems to have that affect on just about everyone. :D ~Minai

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  11. Hi !

    Greetings from Madras/Chennai ! I stumbled upon here thru a posting of your blog in today's HPI (hindu press international) newsletter and amazed to note your passion on this art form. Though living in the neck of the woods of Kolaveri De, never once heard it and you surprised/beat me there :). Being a member of a group called 'Vintage Heritage' might answer the reason for not swing by Kolaveri. VH screens a film a month that was made between 1930-1960 - of course lots of classical based music and dance ! Time to time, they screen only videos of music/dance from vintage Tamil films and last evening was one such. We do plan to do one in Vyjayanthi's presence soon and were talking about it even last evening.

    Anyway, if time permits, you may want to take a look at my blog ananthablahblah.wordpress.com ....certainly not exhaustive and regular as yours but may find one or two on dance. As I've not delved deeper, sure you must have covered the famed duo SaiSubbulakshi in your blog. Also, I see your high regards for Sujata and no doubt she deserves in the present day, but would suggest to look at Sanjukta P, the inimitable Odissi dancer in my and so many other's books !

    Best,
    anantha

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    1. Hello Anantha, I recall seeing your blog in the past and the "blah blah" part of the URL is a great memory aid. :) Thank you so much for letting me know that HPI had included my Jack Cole blog post--I had no idea! I just posted about it on my blog's Facebook page along with some news about a related dance production. Thanks again! That Vintage Heritage group you're a part of sounds great! I assume Vyjyanthi's epic dance-off with Padmini is Vanjikottai Vaaliban has been or is planned to be screened! Yes, I have discussed Sayee-Subbulakshmi extensively and I'm very proud of my two most recent posts on them which you can read here. I haven't found any video of Sanjukta's film dances but did discuss her in my post on Odia film dances...see my Odissi-related posts here. She is such a towering veteran dancer in the Odissi dance world for sure. Great to hear from you, do stop by again! :) ~Minai

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    2. Hi Minai, nice to hear back !

      Yes, Randor used to introduce the films with his 'dramatic flair' at our VH screenings until recently but backed off lately 'cause of age +, though he continues at the Vintage Hollywood monthly screenings that I'm not part of. Hope you got to see that SaiSubbu dance in my blog...from the film 'Arivali'. I uploaded the same in YT as well under the name Vrichika..one of my favs !

      I don't believe Sanjukta was ever in films and neither is Sujata I believe...you'd know better. I kept thinking about taking a trip to Bhuvaneswar to meet up with Sanju's husband Panigrahi again and chat about his times in Vintage Tamil films (you'd find one of his playbacks in my blog on them), but regrettably he passed on quite recently.

      Though not dance-centric, would suggest you skim through dhool.com. Also, AN AMERICAN IN MADRAS page on FB. This docu was doing the rounds in the USA very recently. If I can be of any from Madras, please feel free. Best, anantha

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    3. Oh so you've met Randor at these VH meetings, how exciting! Yes, I've seen Sayee-Subbulakshmi's quick dance in Arivali--they were so speedy. It is sad that so many people who were part of the old film days are leaving us one by one and taking their memories with them. Ah yes, An American in Madras! I've been following that doc on Facebook...I really hope I get the chance to see it some day. Pleasure to have met you, I hope to see you around here again soon. :)

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    4. how old are sayee and subbulaxmi at present ? may i know the date of birth ,month and year of birth of these two ?

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  12. Hai minai, it's just amazing that today i got to see a non Indian soo passionate about Indian dance which once again made me feel proud to be born in this great Country. Today i was seeing some article regarding film Sapthapadi and got to see ur blog which was amazing. Hope to see more from you.
    Just wanted to share about a film SWARNAKAMALAM by Kalathapasvi SREE VISWANADH, the same director who directed the film sapthapadi

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  13. Dear Cassidy Minai,

    Your hard work, articles, and rare Indian dance film collection are all so inspiring! Thank you. I learned about you via Rajika Puri's post on FB recently. I plan on visiting your site and learning more.

    Best wishes
    Malathi Iyengar
    Rangoli Dance Company

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Malathi--knowing that more people like you are continuing to discover these rare video and archival finds is always heartening for me!

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  14. So happy to read about my father Guru Gopinath. I am Vasanti Jayaswal, his oldest daughter and the only one of his children who learned his style and conducted the Kalamandiram Academy of Arts in Los Angeles from 1980-2003.
    Here is more information for you Cassidy.
    1. He did act as Christ in Jeevitha Nouka. The scene was from Magdala Mariam. I was at the preview.
    2. " What exactly is Kerala Natanam?" The Global Conference was organized by me after his passing away. Three days of dance and in addition an exhibition were the highlights. It was then that famous G.Venu, head of Natanakairali,a student of my father defined what Kerala natanam is . In Sanskrit he said " Keraliya Shaastriya Sargaathmaka Nrittham". Simply translated it means A dance form of Kerala that is based on the Shaastras ( in this case dance treatises) and is creative. Unfortunately what is being presented as in Youth festivals and being taught is far from what it really is. If you are interested in knowing more Cassidy please check at the Museum in his name in Trivandrum. We have documented the basics of Kerala Natanam as video- archives. The only student of his currently maintaining actively his syle is Shree Sajeev Nair of Mumbai.

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    1. Many thanks Vasanti for your comment--I copied it over to the Guru Gopinath post here so that others can see it, and responded there.

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